Fish and Wildlife urges keeping a safe distance from bears

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(Host) Hundreds of people report seeing bears in Vermont every spring.

In April, a family in eastern Tennessee was attacked by a black bear and a six year old girl was killed.

Wildlife experts say such attacks are extremely rare and black bears are typically wary of people.

But with the bear population growing in Vermont, experts say there are some things you can do to lessen your chances of running into the creatures.

VPR’s Nina Keck reports:

(Keck) Tom Decker is a biologist with the Vermont Department of Fish and Wildlife. He says there are between 3,800 and 4,500 black bears in Vermont. They’re more visible in spring, he says, because food in the forest isn’t plentiful yet.

(Decker) “The real key is if you’re seeing a bear around your house regularly it’s because of a food source. They normally have fairly large home ranges from 10 to 20 square miles depending if they’re males or females. If they’re lingering, it’s usually because their hunger urge is getting filled. So you really want to pay attention to eliminating food sources so they’ll move on and forage out in the woods.”

(Keck) That means getting rid of bird seed and pet food that you may have in the backyard or on the porch. Even compost piles can attract bears. Decker says bear sightings also increase in August when corn crops ripen. While there have been no reports of bear attacks in Vermont, Decker says people need to respect the animals.

(Decker) “Stay at a distance. If it’s in their yard, yell at it like a stray dog. So that it doesn’t linger around. Not to approach or feed bears. That may be common sense, but we live in the age of digital cameras and video cameras and a lot of people try to get close and take pictures. And you really want to give bears its free space so that it will move off.”

(Keck) For Vermont Public Radio, I’m Nina Keck

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